The Modular Smartphone Dream Is All But Over


LG is abandoning its modular smartphone strategy after its latest flagship, the LG G5 has bombed at the market. That’s what you get for trying something new LG. It is looking more and more likely that the dream of the modular smartphone is going to remain just that. A dream. Google famously abandoned it’s Project Ara modular smartphone only to revive it and then finally shelf it again.

So why is it that companies are having a tough time selling what people should logically seem to want?

For one thing. The execution of these ideas has not been as good as expected. The G5 had some impressive partners making add-ons for its mobile, however, they just did not justify their price or added heft.

If you make a camera module that users have to buy separately then ensure it is the best or at least among the best camera solutions for a smartphone on the market. This was just not the case as users found themselves being disappointed by the extra modules.

Then there is the fact that a lot of users just do not want a modular phone at all. Yes, geeks, nerds, early adopters or tech enthusiasts may wax eloquently about wanting a modular device online and in customer research surveys, but the average user just does not want a complicated smartphone.

They want something that comes with all that it needs, does the things that they need well out of the box and is simple enough to use. Of course, as a famous technology pioneer once said that people do not know what they want until you give it to them, so maybe this hurdle too could have been overcome.

The last reason holding back the development of a true modular smartphone is the fact that companies like LG just do not have the patience or money to spend and create a whole new ecosystem around its devices.

Think about it. The ideal situation would be one where the company building the modular smartphone sold so many devices that third party developers had no option but to get on board and build for the phone. In theory, this should then ensure that the users keep on having a steady stream of add-ons to improve or customize their phone and fuel a thriving ecosystem. Maybe Apple could pull such a thing off and even that is far from a certainty.

LG was simply unable to sell that many G5’s. In fact, it also realized that the modular nature of the G5 made it hard to manufacture and raised costs significantly in that area as well. This leaves the Moto Z to own the modular phone market. It remains interesting to see if Lenovo is going to stick with this line or join the rest of the industry in putting this idea to rest.

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